Also of interest…
In spies real and imagined
by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House, $27)
Marie Mitchell is not a typical fictional spy, said Michael Schaub in NPR.org. A young Caribbean-American who leaves the FBI to go undercover for the CIA, she winds up in 1980s West Africa trying to seduce the left-leaning president the agency wants to overthrow. “An expertly written spy thriller as well as a deeply intelligent literary novel,” American Spy “marks the debut of an immensely talented writer.” Like the best of John le Carré, this novel is “extremely tough to put down.”
An Impeccable Spy
by Owen Matthews (Bloomsbury, $30)
“History is full of what-ifs,” said Victor Sebestyen in the Financial Times. The question of what would have happened if Josef Stalin had acted on Richard Sorge’s bombshell discovery—the plans for Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union—hovers over Owen Matthews’ vivid new biography. Sorge, a ruthless German-born intelligence officer, scored multiple coups before his capture by Japan and subsequent execution. He’d fallen victim to a problem that has plagued spies for millennia: He’d relayed information that his leader didn’t want to hear.
Our Man Down in Havana
by Christopher Hull (Pegasus, $28)
“Graham Greene’s life was a gift to biographers,” and the chapter that inspired 1958’s Our Man in Havana is no exception, said The Economist. The novelist and secret agent first landed in Cuba in 1954—and he loved its louche capital enough to return 16 times. Reliably anti-American, Greene aided the island’s communist rebels, though his half-baked efforts were “worthy of his own comic novels.” Author Christopher Hull is often too admiring, but this is “delicious” history all the same.
Spies of No Country
by Matti Friedman (Algonquin, $27)
Nonfiction books about spies “often fall short in tapping the depths of their lives,” said Neal Bascomb in The New York Times. Not this one, “a wondrous exception” to the rule. Author Matti Friedman focuses on four Jews, born in Arab countries, who put their lives on the line by going undercover in early 1948 when Israel was just an idea. Moments of high drama arise, but Friedman is just as interesting on the spies’ internal struggles. These men’s stories “serve still as a window into Israel’s troubled soul.” ■